At least 47 people in East Ghouta, near Syria’s capital Damascus, were killed on Sunday in the latest pro-Assad attacks trying to break resistance in the territory.
Activists spoke of incessant bombing, as the Assad regime and its allies, including Russia, try to split the remaining opposition-held area into three parts and surround Douma, the center of the enclave. They said incendiary munitions and possibly chlorine were used.
Among Sunday’s victims were 14 children and 10 women. Eight people died in Jobar and 16 people from the same family were killed in an attack on Douma, according to local activist Nour Adam. There were also fatalities in Harasta, Zamalka, and Erbin.
About 1,400 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the pro-Assad assault since February 1, amid a tightening five-year siege. The Assad regime and Russia have defied a UN call for an effective 30-day ceasefire.
On Saturday, pro-Assad forces occupied Mesraba, cutting off Douma from the town of Harasta, and they advanced yesterday on the town of Mudeira.
As helicopters threatened barrel bombing of Douma on Sunday, pro-Assad warplanes dropped leaflets trying to undermine civilian morale, “Keep yourself and your family aware”.
White Helmets rescuers also reported renewed regime and Russian airstrikes on Idlib Province, including Idlib city.
Idlib city under attack again, non-stop airstrikes in and around the city of #Idlib and news about killed civilians in #Taftanaz city. @SyriaCivilDefe teams working to respond quickly to the locations of the raids. pic.twitter.com/QPPmB9KERu
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) March 12, 2018
Casualties are reported on Monday morning in the towns of Taftanaz and Binnish. A kindergarten was hit in Taftanaz, injuring more than 20 children, and markets in Idlib city were struck, pro-opposition media said.
— أنقذوا الغوطة – AEJ خليل (@anteebah_alSham) March 12, 2018
Pro-Assad forces carried out an intense assault this winter on Idlib and western Aleppo Province, taking some territory and killing at least 264 civilians in five weeks, before deciding to focus on East Ghouta.
And pro-Assad warplanes, breaking a de-escalation agreement, also struck southern Daraa Province, on the Jordanian border, for the first time since last summer.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu boasted, in a new film honoring President Vladimir Putin, “We have tested 210 weapons,” saying that many of them are better than those in the US and the European Union.
Sisters Noor and Alaa write from East Ghouta:
We will try to put you in touch with what happens when we can. When there is no news, there is no life.
Forgive us. We tried to awaking humanity in the international community to save us. It seems we couldn't.
We love you so much
— Noor And Alaa (@Noor_and_Alaa) March 12, 2018
Victims are buried in makeshift graves in Douma:
According to @DoumaLc, due to the continues shelling by regime/ Russian forces on #Douma city, near the city's cemetery. The city council had to dig a temporary cemetery in one of the city's public park. More than 70 victims were buried in one place.#SaveGhouta pic.twitter.com/DbxXIpXHGl
— Siege Updates (@SiegeUpdates) March 11, 2018
43 Attacks on Medical Facilities in February
The UN said there were 43 attacks on medical facilities across Syria in February, 28 of them in East Ghouta.
Twenty attacks were on hospitals — 14 in East Ghouta — 16 on health centers, two on ambulance stations, and one medical warehouse. Three of the health facilities were attacked twice, including a hospital in East Ghouta’s Kafr Batna.
Nineteen people, including four health workers, were killed. At least 28 were injured.
US Says “Very Unwise” for Assad to Use Chlorine — But No Sign of Action
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has repeated a verbal warning to the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons, but again indicated that the US will take no action over chlorine assaults.
Mattis said it would be “very unwise” for pro-Assad forces to employ chlorine, amid seven confirmed attacks on East Ghouta since January 13 and unconfirmed reports in the past week of further use.
“It would be very unwise for them to use weaponized gas. And I think President Trump made that very clear early in his administration,” Mattis said, referring to US retaliation in April 2017 for the Assad regime’s sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria.
But Mattis has drawn a line in other interviews between a likely response over sarin — which the Assad regime has not used since Khan Sheikhoun and the 56 US missiles on the airbase that launched the operation — and chlorine, which would not bring US operations.
Last week, in a White House meeting, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster favored action but Mattis was “adamantly” opposed, according to officials.
Speaking in India on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would strike over the use of chemical weapons — if the US joined the action:
The day we have, in particular in tandem with our American partners, irrefutable proof that the red line was crossed — namely the chemical weapons were used to lethal effect — we will do what the Americans themselves did…a few months ago; we would put ourselves in position to proceed with targeted strikes.